HOLLYWOOD—This was a movie that was meant to be seen on the big screen and it truly delivers as one of my first fun blockbusters of 2024. I’m referring to “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.” It has been quite some time since we last saw an “Apes” flick. The previous three flicks in the franchise, “Rise,” “Dawn” and “War for the Planet of the Apes” were solid as a trilogy as the focus was solely on Ceasar and his rise to power amongst the apes.

Well, let’s get the bad news out of the way, Ceasar is not present in this flick. His ideology and message reigns supreme with the apes though, as the audience is introduced to a new protagonist Noa (Owen Teague). The ape is so well-developed and positioned in the movie that you don’t miss Ceasar. He has become the new Ceasar, but he has a bit of an edge. Ceasar was always quick to protect humans, Noa not so much. Yes, there is very little human life in this movie, and I didn’t miss it, the movie is called “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” and the apes do indeed rule and the narrative is so damn enthralling. I was hooked from the beginning to the meaty end that is setting up a battle royale between apes and humans.

Beyond Noa, he meets an ally, Raka (Pete Macon), an orangutan who happens to be much wiser than people expect. A lot of the apes at Noa’s home base are not fully aware of Ceasar’s teachings and Raka schools the young one on those teachings. I found it fascinating that Noa and his pals Soona (Lydia Peckham) and Anaya (Travis Jeffery), are training falcons by capturing their eggs. It feels like something that shouldn’t work, but it does.

It is during that tutelage that Noa stumbles upon a mute human Nova (Freya Allan), who totally reminded me of that woman from the 1968 classic starring Charleston Heston. However, there is much more to Nova than meets the eye as the movie progresses and the audience gets its first taste of some new baddies. Notably Slyva (Eka Darville), who is a gorilla that is focused on pure menace and brute force as his clan destroys Noa’s village. Slyva is such a good villain when his comeuppance transpires, it is so worth the wait.

That debacle leads Noa on his quest to seek vengeance and ultimately comes face-to-face with the new ape in charge Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), who takes the teachings of Caesar and turns them on their head to serve his own selfish needs. Proximus is the perfect villain for this new installment because he’s not wickedly evil, but quietly evil and those are the most dangerous villains to me because you never know what you’re going to get.

The visual effects in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” are simply fascinating. You as a viewer feel immersed in this world. It seems foreign, but the narrative is so captivating, so pristine, that you become a part of the movie and you’re on the journey with these characters as we try to find out what else is out there.

I truly found William H. Macy to be a waste of a character in this movie because what was his purpose and the talent of the actor felt underutilized and unnecessary to me. That was my only hiccup with this film.

Everything else was solid and entertaining as a viewer, with explosive set pieces, stunning fights and an ending that is just so visceral and gripping you cannot take your eyes off the screen. As I said before, there is a sequel indeed coming as it’s apparent the war between the humans and the apes has just begun, but it begins the question; who has the actual edge and what is the other willing to do to ensure their species remains supreme?

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a popcorn flick that the entire family can enjoy and proves great movies can still be made and with the technology we have now, the realism is more potent than ever before.